This spring, Okanagan playwrights are invited to try their hand at creating an original short play. If you live in Penticton, or within the geographical area of the Okanagan Regional Library, the Ryga Festival 10-minute play competition has a category for writers 18 or older, and another for youth.
Aspiring playwrights can choose any style from farce to hard-hitting emotional drama. However, plays accepted for the competition must have parts for two to four actors, require minimal sets or props, call for simple lighting and wrap up in under 10 minutes.
“Plays are life’s memorable moments condensed,” said contest organizer and local writer Don Gayton. “Confessions, black humour, mistaken identity, moments of Zen – it’s all there.”
Whatever genre, organizers encourage writers to tackle what they know best. To get started, writers are being given a prompt that must be in the play. Writers can either be inspired by the theme, the outside or include the phrase, “That’s what they meant” in their dialogue.
Looking for inspiration? Because this is the Ryga Festival, I’d suggest digging out a copy of George Ryga’s famous play The Ecstasy of Rita Joe. Important in Canadian theatre because of how it deals with aboriginal issues, this play is raw and unflinching.
Telling the story of a young aboriginal woman who ends up on skid row and a victim of violence, this may not be easy material for beginning playwrights, but it will certainly help aspiring writers or readers thinking of attending the festival, understand why Ryga is so celebrated.
For me, reading a play is never as engaging as seeing it live on the stage. That could be because I’m not good at slowing down my reading pace to allow for stage directions to sink in, or because one of the things I love best about a live play is the chance to see it freshly interpreted by someone else’s imagination.
The contest’s winning playwrights and some of the runners-up will have a chance to see their words interpreted and put under the bright lights.
In addition to cash prizes ($100 for first place), their plays will be staged at a showcase during the Ryga Festival (known last year as the Marginal Arts Festival), September 1 to 4.
Although September seems a way off, aspiring writers shouldn’t procrastinate. The deadline for submitting a play is May 31, with three winners announced mid-July.
Among other tips, the competition organizers suggest writing in the present tense, avoiding too many scene changes, and focusing on conflict early.
For more information, contest parameters, writing guidelines and submission details, please email Don Gayton firstname.lastname@example.org or Peter Hay email@example.com.
To see a map of the boundaries of the Okanagan Regional Library, which extends approximately from Princeton to Golden: orl.bc.ca/hours-locations.